at war – shock photos: which images can be justified?

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Christian Schicha, professor of media ethics, on the balancing act between shaking up the global public and moral boundaries in shocking photos.

„krone“: Have you recently seen pictures from Ukraine in the media that would condemn you?
Christian Schicha: A New York Times cover photo, showing the faces of bomb victims, was controversial. I have criticized this in interviews.

On the other hand, this produces ‘eternal’ images, such as that of the girl who ran naked from a bombed village during the Vietnam War in 1972. Coverage on front pages around the world fueled anti-war protests.
Yes, but such things are viewed much more critically these days. The photo of Kim Phúc from that time even won prizes. The connections are important here. The photographer also looked after the child and later contacted her during public appearances.

Isn’t it a big dichotomy – the stimulating on the one hand, and moral boundaries on the other, such as with photos of fatalities?
That’s exactly the problem. Journalists are obliged to report such crimes in word and image. At the same time, the effects must be considered. Children should not be disturbed by publicly available shock photos. The Vietnam War photo was even removed from Facebook, but then reposted.

Does publishing drastic images for a month threaten a certain numbness?
The majority of recipients are certainly shocked and do not react indifferently. But some also look away because you can’t stand the photos. There may be a certain habituation effect, because the images of destroyed buildings are similar. However, images of suffering or deceased people still evoke pity and sympathy, as well as anger towards the perpetrators.

Was it Russia’s hope that the war would be won quickly so that images would not emerge in the first place that attracted international attention?
This can be assumed, as images of the latest Russian war missions have not played a central role in media coverage.

Can certain images influence political and military events?
This is already the case. Further sanctions and military aid were announced.

Source: Krone

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